Court or­ders com­pen­sa­tion to man who was ar­rested for protest­ing in front of Castille

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri

A court yes­ter­day or­dered the Po­lice Com­mis­sioner and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral to pay the sum of €2,000 in com­pen­sa­tion to Ig­natius Busut­til, the man who was ar­rested and sent to Mount Carmel Hos­pi­tal for protest­ing out­side Castille Place two years ago.

The case dates back to 2014, when 59-year-old Busut­til car­ried out a peace­ful protest against the plan­ning au­thor­ity (Mepa) out­side the Prime Minister’s Of­fice. The man was ar­rested, in­ter­ro­gated, and sent to Mount Carmel Hos­pi­tal af­ter the protest.

Mr Busut­til had car­ried out other protests for which he was also ques­tioned and warned by the po­lice not to go to Castille again. In the of­fi­cial state­ment given to the po­lice and signed by Mr Busut­til, he was asked why he wanted to speak to Prime Minister Joseph Mus­cat, what he in­tended to say to Dr Mus­cat and what his griev­ances with Mepa are.

The po­lice asked him whether he had ever tried to make a for­mal ap­point­ment with Dr Mus­cat or any other govern­ment of­fi­cials. The po­lice then asked Mr Busut­til whether he has any men­tal prob­lems.

The court, presided by Judge Joseph Zam­mit McKeon, heard how Mr Busut­til car­ried out the protest on his own and was no threat to na­tional or pub­lic se­cu­rity. Mr Busut­til ar­gued that the po­lice had stopped him from ex­press­ing him­self.

Mr Busut­til was ac­cused of dis­obey­ing po­lice or­ders and ob­struct­ing traf­fic. Dur­ing the ini­tial ques­tion­ing, the po­lice warned Mr Busut­til not to “go to Castille again and break the law”.

Af­ter the Po­lice ar­rested him they took him to the Val­letta de­pot. He was then taken to the Flo­ri­ana clinic and seen by a doc­tor. The doc­tor gave him an ap­point­ment to see a psy­chi­a­trist at Mater Dei the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

Still un­der ar­rest at this point, the po­lice then took Mr Busut­til back to the de­pot and asked him to sign the state­ment which he had given them. The po­lice then took him to Mater Dei where he was seen by an­other doc­tor. From there, he was trans­ported un­der ar­rest to Mount Carmel via am­bu­lance.

Mr Busut­til said he was sent to Mount Carmel for three days but only ended up stay­ing overnight.

Mr Busut­til had de­cided to head to Castille to protest af­ter an ap­point­ment he had with an of­fi­cial from Mepa. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Busut­til, the Mepa of­fi­cial was speak­ing to him as if he was “talk­ing to a child”. At this point, the ac­cused de­cided to head to Castille to speak with the Prime Minister di­rectly. When he parked the car at the square, a soldier who was sta­tioned at the steps of Castille told him that he was not al­lowed to leave the car there. As he was speak­ing to him, a po­lice of­fi­cer booked Mr Busut­til for il­le­gal park­ing. The ac­cused asked why did the po­lice is­sue a ticket if it was a ques­tion of a cou­ple of min­utes and by the time the con­ver­sa­tion ended, six po­lice of­fi­cers had ap­proached the car.

To avoid the sit­u­a­tion es­ca­lat­ing, the ac­cused had agreed to get in the car with the po­lice.

Af­ter this first in­ci­dent, the man went to protest in front of Castille an­other two times.

The court noted that Busut­til’s be­hav­iour had a cer­tain un­con­for­mity, but it was not il­le­gal. It cen­sored the po­lice for be­ing afraid of the demon­stra­tion and went from hand­ing a park­ing ticket to prej­u­dic­ing the per­son’s dig­nity. “The right to protest is an in­te­gral part of free­dom of ex­pres­sion.”

The Judge fur­ther noted that for such an ac­tion from the po­lice force to be jus­ti­fied, there needs to be suf­fi­cient proof that the mat­ter would en­dan­ger na­tional or pub­lic se­cu­rity, which in this case was nei­ther.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.